REVIEW: The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
starring: Denzel Washington & John Travolta

Tony Scott has released the first summer flick of the year adapted from a novel in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 – not a remake of the ’74 version, but a reimagining of the novel (or so I’ve read). Oscar winner Brian Helgeland wrote the script; rather than the initial script which was put together by David Koepp. Perhaps it was a very poor decision on the production team, because this film had major issues. The characters are cut-and-paste from many other films – most recently, the two main characters Inside Man would be a fair comparison (sans their sub-philosophical dialogue).

The action is fine, but what bothers this film the most is the lack of consistency. The Mayor apparently takes hijacking/terrorist cases light enough to ignore the time constraints, yet will risk the policeman’s lives to rush it to the men responsible in time.

The characters are fine, but as I said lack any real depth. We know that Ryder (John Travolta) is a frantic Catholic who enjoys the prospect of money. It is uncertain whether he values the human life more or less than the almight dollar which is cause for missing and important conflict – especially since he is in possession of 17 hostages. Does he have any friends? Family? We assume he’s associated with a lot of people and is generally a pleasant guy, but none of these questions are answered.

Then we come to Walter (Denzel Washington). His major conflict is that he did a bad thing by taking a bribe to fend for his kids’ college tuition. Is he a good or bad person? Well, the ending tells the audience to believe that he is. But prior to taking a bribe he was the assistant subway manager, so he must’ve been making a fair chunk of money. Even to be in the position to take a bribe he must’ve been, so this just adds to the confusion.

The story tries to raise religious and spiritual questions about humanity and the human experience, but fall short of anything profound (har-har… very short, if you didn’t get the sarcasm) and seem utterly useless. To me, it was clear that the suspense and action was the main focus of the film, so it became rather annoying and pitiful to see Hedgeland try to do anything intelligent with the plot.

Regardless, it’s a fairly entertaining film. None of the scenes take themselves too serious and when they do they’ve got some meaning behind it (although not enough to be taken so seriously anyhow). The bit parts with comic lines get tired fast and really don’t add anything to the story or the plot. The film reaches its most illogical when the uncleanliness of the New York subway system is used as an important and decisive plot point.

On the plus side, Travolta and Washington have fun with their roles and have good chemistry together. Turturro provides a solid supporting performance as he is the go to guy if you ever need an assured good performance. The music is used well and there are some great compositions in some very interesting scenes. Like usual, I enjoy when stories can thrive and sustain whatever their goal is (whether it be an intense or melancholic feel) when there is only silence. The film has two very effective scenes that only hold the eased, yet suspenseful score by Harry Gregson-Williams.

Unless you love going to the cinema, are a fan of Scott’s work (with the slowed down, jarred visuals and what not) or really like fun villains then by all means see it. Otherwise I’d recommend that you avoid the subway and perhaps take a trip on the hot air balloon instead. [6/10]

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